TEEN IDOLS II
After its initial outburst, primal rock 'n' roll got sidetracked by payola hearings and other forms of official censure and harassment, as well as by the outrageous lifestyles of some rockers. Nearly all the big guns underwent major changes during a brief timespan in the late 1950s: Chuck Berry went to prison for taking a minor across state lines, Elvis went into the army, Jerry Lee got blacklisted for marrying a 13-year-old distant cousin, Little Richard entered the ministry. And of course Buddy Holly died in the infamous plane crash.
Until the onslaught of surf music from California and especially a revitalizing wave of music from Britain, teen idols helped fill the gap in American music. Many of these performers started out as actors, and rock 'n' roll was used simply as a way of expanding their careers; a few started out as singers but wound up actors after their singing careers faltered. For most of them, at any rate, image was perhaps the paramount consideration.
Philly boys Frankie Avalon and Fabian symbolize this squeaky-clean era. Avalon, a trumpet player and a singer in a teen group that included Bobby Rydell, signed to the local Chancellor label in 1957 and had his first hit in 1958. His career benefited immeasurably from regular exposure on American Bandstand, Dick Clark's television dance party, which served as the ultimate arbiter of teen taste. In 1959 Bobby Sox to Stockings joined A Boy without a Girl on a single, and they became Avalon's fourth and fifth top-10 hits. But Frankie is best remembered today for the beach-party movies he went on to make with Annette Funicello.
One story has it that Fabian was introduced to Chancellor Records boss Bob Marcucci by Avalon. Whether this is true or not, there's no denying that Marcucci built handsome Fabian into a star pretty much from scratch— both artist and exec cheerfully agreed that he didn't sing very well and that promotion (his first public appearance was on a network TV show ballyhooed for weeks in advance) was everything. The 1980 movie The Idolmakerwas based on the Fabian-Marcucci relationship. Hound Dog Man, which could have been written for Elvis, was the title tune from Fabe's movie debut. In fact, the song was written by Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman, who regularly provided material for the King, and the flick was directed by B-movie auteur Don Siegel, who was responsible for Flaming Star, one of El's best.
Child performer Dodie Stevens was 12 years old when she recorded Pink Shoe Laces (she also appeared in Hound Dog Man with Fabian). She didn't like the song because it didn't rock enough for her tastes, but it proved her only real hit, and she left the biz at 16 to marry and have kids. A few years later, under the name Geri Stevens, she returned as a backup singer for Mac Davis and as one of the two female voices in Sergio Mendes and Brasil '66.
James Darren was another Philly boy, but he went into acting before singing. His film debut was in Rumble on the Docks in 1959, and later that year he sang the title tune to the movie Gidget, in which he starred opposite Sandra Dee. His Columbia acting contract led to a similar deal with the company's Colpix record subsidiary, and Goodbye Cruel World proved his biggest hit.
Another young actor, Paul Petersen, was playing the son, and Shelley Fabares the daughter, on The Donna Reed Show when producer Tony Owen (Reed's real-life husband) announced that Columbia wanted them both to start recording for Colpix. The company was apparently motivated by Ricky Nelson's successful singing career, which had spun off his part on The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. So songs like She Can't Find Her Keys were worked into the TV show for Petersen.
Tab Hunter, who had perhaps his greatest role in the movie version of Damn Yankees, and country singer Sonny James each took Young Love to the top of the pop charts in 1957. (The original recording of the song, done by its co-writer Ric Cartey, had failed entirely.) Hunter was under film contract to Warner Bros, at the time, and the company soon started its record label mainly to keep the heartthrob property from continuing to make singles for Dot.
Edd Byrnes played carhop Gerald Lloyd Kookson III, better known as Kookie, on 77 Sunset Strip. Much of his on-camera time was spent combing his hair, which led to Kookie, Kookie (Lend Me Your Comb), written by Irving Taylor, who also penned the show's theme. Kookie's singing partner, Connie Stevens, had appeared in the movie Eighteen and Anxious in 1957 before being tabbed by Jerry Lewis as his leading lady in Rock-a-Bye Baby. She went on to gain TV roles on 77 Sunset Strip and then Hawaiian Eye, another detective series. Kookie went on to gain a large piece of an American comb-manufacturing company and a lackluster career in B-movies and spaghetti westerns in Europe, where he lived for several years.
Buddy Holly, Dion, Neil Sedaka and Brenda Lee all had substantial impact purely as rock 'n' rollers. Holly, who first recorded in 1956, is still considered one of the music's founding fathers; Heartbeat was from one of his last sessions, in the summer of 1958 at his manager Norman Petty's Clovis, New Mexico, studios. Guitarist Tommy Allsup augmented the usual Crickets line-up. Dion's Donna the Prima Donna comes from a phase when both his original label, Laurie, and his new home, Columbia, were releasing singles with girls' names in the titles; this song was written with Ernie Maresca, an old Bronx buddy who had a hand in many of Dion's biggest hits.
Another early rocker, Neil Sedaka, had been around the music biz for several years before shifting into high gear in 1958, when he signed (with longtime collaborator Howie Greenfield) to Don Kirshner's Aldon Publishing as a writer, which in turn led to his getting an RCA contract as an artist. Next Door to an Angel was the follow-up to, and a virtual clone of, his signature song, Breaking Up Is Hard to Do. (Sedaka's first hit as writer had been Connie Francis' Stupid Cupid, which was meant for the Shepherd Sisters.) Brenda Lee first heard I Want to Be Wanted, from the original production of Never on Sunday, as an instrumental and liked the melody so much that she got lyrics from the Italian songwriters and turned it into her second No. 1 single.
Paul and Paula topped the charts with their 1963 debut, Hey Paula, which also gave them their stage names. The song was originally six minutes long and had to be edited severely for radio play. Paul took the leftovers and, working with Paula and her mother, patched them together to create Young Lovers. Johnny Tillotson was pushed as a country-rocker like Ricky Nelson, but material like It Keeps Right On a-Hurtin' shows that his heart remained with mainstream Nashville. Johnny Burnette started out the leader of one of Memphis' toughest rockabilly groups and ended up in Los Angeles writing for Ricky Nelson and singing his own softer brand of country-rock along the lines of Little Boy Sad.
North Dakota was the home of smoothie Bobby Vee, who got his big break when he replaced Buddy Holly on the bill right after that plane crash. Producer Snuff Garrett then took Vee to Los Angeles and groomed him as the next Holly. Sharing You, a Carole King-Gerry Goffin tune, was in the mold of Vee's smash Run to Him.
The ultimate smoothie, and to many the ultimate teen idol, was wholesome Pat Boone. Don't Forbid Me was rejected by Elvis, and Boone rushed through the song in 15 minutes at the end of a session, but that didn't stop it from becoming his seventh top-10 record. April Love, the title song to a Boone film, was written by the Academy Award-winning team of Sammy Fain and Paul Francis Webster (Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing, Secret Love). Boone revised the intro to make it catchier, and the song was yet another Oscar nominee, if not a winner. When Boone bought a Ferrari in Italy, he had the horn designed to play the April Love intro instead of issuing the standard honk.
* Indicates highest Billboard chart position
1. Donna the Prima Donna Dion DiMucci • Music and lyrics by Dion DiMucci and Ernie Maresca. Columbia 42852 (1963). Under license from Sony Music Special Products, a Division of Sony Music Entertainment, Inc. No. 6*
2. Next Door to an Angel Neil Sedaka • Music and lyrics by Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield. RCA Victor 8086 (1962). Courtesy of BMG Music/The RCA Records Label, under license from BMG Direct Marketing, Inc. No. 5*
3. Sharing You Bobby Vee • Music and lyrics by Gerry Goffin and Carole King. Liberty 55451 (1962). Courtesy of EMI, a Division of Capitol Records, Inc., under license from CEMA Special Markets. No. 15*
4. Heartbeat Buddy Holly • Music and lyrics by Norman Petty and Bob Montgomery. Coral 62051 (1959). Courtesy of MCA Records. Inc. No. 82*
5. Young Love Tab Hunter • Music and lyrics by Ric Cartey and Carole Joyner. Dot 15533 (1957). Courtesy of MCA Records, Inc. No. 1*
6. April Love Pat Boone • Music by Sammy Fain, lyrics by Paul Francis Webster. Dot 15660 (1951). Courtesy of MCA Records, Inc. No. 1*
7. Hound Dog Man Fabian • Music and lyrics by Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman. Chancellor 1044 (1959). Courtesy of Chancellor Records. No. 9*
8. Stupid Cupid Connie Francis • Music by Howard Greenfield, lyrics by Neil Sedaka. MGM 12683 (1958). Courtesy of PolyGram Special Products, a Division of PolyGram Records, Inc. No. 17*
9. Bobby Sox to Stockings Frankie Avalon • Music and lyrics by Russell Faith, Clarence Wey Kehner and Richard di Cicco. Chancellor 1036 (1959). Courtesy of Chancellor Records. No. 8*
10. It Keeps Right On a-Hurtin' Johnny Tillotson • Music and lyrics by Johnny Tillotson and Lorene Mann. Cadence 1418 (1962). Courtesy of Barnaby Records. No. 3*
11. Navy Blue Diane Renay • Music and lyrics by Bob Crewe, Eddie Rambeau and Bud Rehak. 20th Century-Fox 456 (1964). Courtesy of PolyGram Special Products, a Division of PolyGram Records, Inc. No. 6*
12. Things Bobby Darin • Music and lyrics by Bobby Darin. Atco 6229 (1962). Produced under license from Atlantic Recording Corp. No. 3*
13. Little Boy Sad Johnny Burnette • Music and lyrics by Wayne P. Walker. Liberty 55298 (1961). Courtesy of EMI, a Division of Capitol Records, Inc., under license from CEMA Special Markets. No. 17*
14. She Can't Find Her Keys Paul Petersen • Music by Wally Gold, lyrics by Roy Alfred. Colpix 620 (1962). Under license from Rhino Records, Inc., by arrangement with Butterfly Entertainment Corp. No. 19*
15. Norman Sue Thompson • Music and lyrics by John D. Loudermilk. Hickory 1159 (1962). Courtesy of Acuff-Rose Music, Inc. No. 3*
16. Don't Forbid Me Pat Boone • Music and lyrics by Charles Singleton. Dot 15521 (1957). Courtesy of MCA Records, Inc. No. 1*
17. I Want to Be Wanted Brenda Lee • Music by Giuseppe Spotti, English lyrics by Kim Gannon. Decca 31149 (1960). Courtesy of MCA Records, Inc. No. 1*
18. Kookie, Kookie (Lend Me Your Comb) Edward Byrnes and Connie Stevens • Music and lyrics by Irving Taylor. Warner Bros. 5047 (1959). Produced under license from Warner Bros. Records Inc. No. 4*
19. Pink Shoe Laces Dodie Stevens • Music and lyrics by Micki Grant. Crystalette 724 (1959). Courtesy of MCA Records, Inc. No. 3*
20. Goodbye Cruel World James Darren • Music and lyrics by Gloria Shayne. Colpix 609 (1961). Under license from Rhino Records, Inc., by arrangement with Butterfly Entertainment Corp. No. 3*
21. Young and in Love Dick and Dee Dee • Music and lyrics by Dick St. John. Warner Bros. 5342 (1963). Produced under license from Warner Bros. Records Inc. No. 17*
22. Young Lovers Paul and Paula • Music and lyrics by Ray Hildebrand and Jill Jackson. Philips 40096 (1963). Courtesy of Le Cam Records. No. 6*
President: John Hall
Vice President: Fernando Pargas
Marketing Director/New Product Development: William Crowley
Executive Producer: Charles McCardell
Recording Producers: Joe Sasfy, Steve Carr
Creative Director: Robin Bray
Associate Producer: Brian Miller
Art Studio: Nina Bridges
Series Consultant: Joe Sasfy
Chief Financial Officer: Chris Hearing
Marketing Director: Martin Shampaine
Product Manager: Kathy O'Day
Associate Director of Production: Karen Hill
Teen Idols II was produced by Time-Life Music in cooperation with Warner Special Products. Digitally remastered at Hit and Run Studios, Rockville, Md.
The Author John Morthland has been an associate editor for Rolling Stone and Creem. He has freelanced for virtually every rock magazine published during the last 20 years.
Time-Life Music wishes to thank William L. Schurk of the Music Library and Sound Recordings Archives, Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, Ohio, for providing valuable reference material.
TIME-LIFE MUSIC is a division of Time Life Inc.
© 1992 Time Life Inc. All rights reserved. Printed in U.S.A.
Cover art by Steven Chorney. © 1992 Time Life Inc.
Picture credits: All photos courtesy Michael Ochs Archives, Venice, Calif.
Manufactured for Time-Life Music by Warner Special Products, a
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